Ongeziwe Jubase felt ashamed when she walked around naked in front of onlookers during intonjane, the Xhosa ritual involving a girl becoming a woman, five years ago.
Now, the 26-year-old artist from Qumbu in the Eastern Cape is challenging and honouring the age-old ritual in her work for an exhibition at the Nelson Mandela Museum in Qunu, home of the former president.
The exhibition, which opened on Friday with the theme Collisions, is part of the museum’s celebrations in honour of Mandela’s 94th birthday on Wednesday.
David Mqamelo, the manager of the museum, said: “Madiba always embraces education and is an artist himself. This upholds his legacy in the way it’s educating artists.”
Jubase is one of five young artists participating in an eight-week course at the museum.
A fine arts graduate, she represents intonjane in her work by reconstructing road signs and using spray paint.
Each piece resembles a traffic sign with different pictures inside - the silhouette of a naked girl with her hands tied up, a girl holding a ball, parents embracing children, a boy and a scale, and a boy and girl, the boy hiding his genitals.
“When boys become men, they’re secretive. Yet, the girls are not secretive,” Jubase said.
About her experience of intonjane, she said that although much of the older women’s advice was memorable and welcome, there was a negative side to it.
But her art had changed her view of the exercise. “I’ve been wanting to do a piece on this issue because it’s been bothering me for a long time. Now I feel free.”
The other four students also attracted much attention with their interpretations of the theme.
Pule Manqobe of Viedgesville made an animated video of dots connected to form faces of Mandela as an example of a Xhosa man. He revealed expressions he believes men are often shy to acknowledge, such as sadness, with tears falling from his face, and discomfort. “Men are not allowed to express emotions. I’m trying to liberate men here to express themselves,” Manqobe said.
Siphokazi Siphondo of Butterworth created a statue of a woman with her legs detached from her body. The woman is standing in front of the rest of her body. Three women form a backdrop to the statue. “I’m looking at the fuller figure, being perceived as negative and slim figures seen as representative. This work is about the positive side of the fuller figure,” Siphondo said.
Naniwe Mtshemla of Queenstown used healing in her work. In her first piece, she danced in the rain. Guests shivered under shelter as they watched. Afterwards, inside the exhibition hall, Mtshemla showed a video of a herself in Mandela’s jail cell, begging God for forgiveness.
“The dancing is about liberating myself. In the video, I’m asking for forgiveness for all the wrongs I’ve done. This is part of my journey as a born-again Christian. Forgiveness starts by forgiving yourself, then you can reconcile with other people and God,” she said.
Phozisile Mini of Port Elizabeth represented cultural dislocation through oil paintings, which at first glance appear to be traditional still life paintings. However, each has an object that doesn’t fit, for example, a breakfast plate with a cigarette butt on the egg and a slice of tomato. It was about an individual moving from the area he was raised into a different place.
“You may feel disgusted at where you’re going and find it hard to integrate, but you may be forced by circumstances to go there,” said Mini. - Sunday Argus